Thursday, February 12, 2015

Turning In New Directions, Part Two

Continuing on from Part One and referring to Beauvallet, Hodge states that it sold 86,000 copies and helped cement Heyer as an author whose historical books would sell. 

In her personal life, things were changing once again. Ronald's partnership in the gas, coke, and light company did not work out, and they actually lost money. They borrowed money from Mrs. Heyer's sisters, bought a sports shop in Horsham, and moved to Sussex. They repaid the loan with interest over the years. Boris left his job with Bovril, lived over the shop, and helped Ronald run it.

A few miles from Horsham they found a four-bedroomed house in Colegate in Lower Breeding. Hodge describes it as a "rambling, two-storied, comfortable" house that in layout was very much like the one at 5 Ridgeway Place. Georgette continued to write, and Heinemann continued to reprint the old titles. 

Next Entry: Barron Corn, the third of the "Moderns"

Turning In New Directions, Part One

In 1928 Georgette joined her husband in Macedonia, which was to be his last prospecting job. In Macedonia she almost died from an anesthetic while in the dentist's chair, and lived in a "haunted house" where she wrote PastelHodge posits that the climax of this book, where the main character, Frances, has her baby, shows how Georgette's mind was working; she was ready to have a baby. Pastel was dedicated to her mother.

Ronald had never really wanted to be a mining engineer, anyway, so the two decided to return to England. Georgette had shown that she could support them with her writing, and that is what she planned to do while Ronald looked about him for a new career.
By 1929 they were back in London, and for a time Ronald was a partner in a gas, light, and coke company. Georgette continued writing. She had tried five different publishers before settling on Heinemann. A. S. Frere, Heinemann's managing director, became a lifelong friend and confidante to Georgette. Hodge writes that Frere recalled that Georgette was discouraged about her career when they first met; then after the success of These Old Shades, Heinemann decided to take over the rights of her previous books, reprinting The Great Roxhythe and The Black Moth in 1929, and changing The Transformation of Philip Jettan to Powder and Patch in 1930.

In 1929 Georgette published Beauvallet with Heinemann. This new historical novel was set during the reign of Queen Elizabeth and was another fast-paced, swashbuckling story, centering on the hero. She dedicated this book to her brother Frank.

Next Entry: Turning in New Directions, Part Two

Updated List

Of these eight, the order in which I rate them:

1. The Masqueraders
2.  Simon The Coldheart
3.  These Old Shades
4.  Helen
5.  The Black Moth
6.  Instead of the Thorn
7.  Powder and Patch
8.  The Great Roxhythe

Next Entry: Turning in New Directions, Part One

HELEN -- published in 1938

    Original dust jacket.

I bought my copy of HELEN back in 2007 I believe, but it was several months before I sat down to read it.  I found it extremely charming from page one.

This is supposedly the most popular of the four contemporary novels, and the one that was the most autobiographical.  Helen's father, faced with raising his daughter alone after his wife dies in childbirth, takes on the job with joy and much appreciation for his reserved, stoic, little girl. Helen, extremely close to her father, becomes his beloved companion. The book takes place before, during, and after World War I, and the great changes taking place in the world at that time form a background for the changes in the life of the main character. Since Heyer had lived this time period herself she is able to paint a very real, poignant picture of the aftermath of the great war on England.

The love story in Helen is one of the most beautiful ones that Heyer ever wrote in my opinion. In Helen, when her father dies suddenly, she turns to her childhood friend, Richard, for comfort and realizes that she has previously undervalued his many good qualities. Richard is portrayed as an intelligent, athletic man who knows and understands Helen's natural reserve.

Helen mirrors Georgette in many ways. She likes and understands men better than women. She is reserved, intelligent, self-controlled, and believes in the social classes. But Helen was very athletic, and Georgette wasn't.

Georgette wrote Helen two years after her father died. There is a touching part in the book where Helen, also a writer, picks up her unfinished book for the first time since her father's death and sees some penciled corrections he had made. But she goes on about her business, "dry-eyed and smiling", with Richard understanding and respecting her reserve. 

It is indeed a very beautiful, brilliant book, and if I had not already been a fan of Heyer this book would send me looking for her other novels. There is a happy ending, but there is much drama on the way there.

My copy is a hardcover published by Buccaneer Books in the 1980s and is in perfect condition.

Heyer dedicated HELEN to Leonard P. Moore, a friend of her father's and her agent with Christy & Moore.  I have never seen HELEN in any library, but it is worth a look. It isn't too difficult to find a copy for sale, but you will not find a paperback, so expect to pay at least $20 or more on Amazon. I have once or twice seen a first edition on Ebay where the bidding went up very high.

Next Entry: Updated List

Writing in Africa

As I mentioned in an earlier entry, Georgette must have been writing TOS while she was dating Ronald. After their marriage, while Ronald was prospecting in the Caucasus where it would have been impossible to take a woman, she stayed behind in the flat at Earl's Court. She probably had her hands full helping her mother deal with her widowhood. Mrs. Heyer did not take up her music again, but lived for the rest of her life in hotels. And although TOS was published in 1926 there was no book published in 1927 which suggests that she was doing little or no writing during the first year of her marriage. 

Ronald returned to England in the Summer of 1926 but by Autumn was journeying again, this time to Africa. Georgette joined him in Tanganyika in the Spring of 1927 where she lived in a compound in the bush, surrounded, according to Hodge, by "lions and leopards and rhinoceroses." Aside from one other man, a rough Cornish miner, the Rougiers were the only white people for one hundred fifty miles.

While Ronald was on safari prospecting for tin, Georgette was left alone for long periods of time with only their native servants who had never seen a white woman before. She did once go on one of these safaris with him but never went on another one, although she never complained about the rough 20-mile-a-day traveling or the one bottle of water allowance.

THE MASQUERADERS was written while she was in Tanganyika in these primitive conditions. She got one fact wrong in this book -- the date of the founding of White's Club. She was only off by one year, though. The book was published in 1928 by which time Ronald was prospecting in Macedonia, where Georgette again joined him. More on her Macedonia experiences in a later entry....

Next Entry: HELEN

Ronald and Georgette

Georgette, according to her contemporaries was very beautiful as a young woman. She was tall, too, at 5'10". She was not athletic, and according to Hodge "took no exercise that she could avoid", but she did enjoy dancing.

She met Ronald Rougier in 1920 at Christmas when both families were staying at the Bushey Park Hotel. Ronald liked George Heyer immediately and was impressed by his intelligence. He also took to the young Georgette. In the 1920s young ladies were expected to bring their own partner when they were invited to dances, and Ronald became Georgette's.

Ronald, tall and handsome, was two years older than Georgette. His family were of Huguenot extraction, but had settled in York where they ran an import-export business. His first love, the navy, had to be given up because of poor eyesight, so he attended The Royal School of Mines to become a mining engineer. In 1922 he qualified as such and worked in Nigeria for a while. He also played first-class rugger with the Harlequins.

After dating for five years, he and Georgette became engaged in 1925. A month later, after playing tennis with his future son-in-law, George Heyer died of a sudden heart attack.  Two months later the wedding went ahead as planned on August 18, 1925 at St. Mary's in Wimbledon. Georgette wore a pretty little cloth hat and her wedding photo in Hodge shows her carrying a huge bouquet and standing next to a smiling and dapper Ronald. The ceremoney was kept simple with no bridesmaids. 

As close as Georgette was to her father, she must have been suffering immensely from grief. Ronald must have been of great strength to her. She confided to a friend a few months later that a girl never got over the death of her father.

As a couple they were always reserved. Georgette was already an established writer, bringing in a good income with her novels. At all accounts they were a well-suited and happy couple. She learned to play bridge for her husband's sake, and, though she disliked exercise, walked many golf courses in his wake. A friend stated that she was 100% loyal to Ronald and that he was entirely devoted to her. They were married for almost fifty years.  She may have been Georgette Heyer to her fans, but she was Mrs. Ronald Rougier in her private life.

Next Entry: Writing in Africa

A Trio of Writers

In 1919 Heyer was introduced to two women with whom she would become good friends -- Joanna Cannan and Carola Oman.

Joanna was the youngest daughter of Charles Cannan, Dean of Trinity College, Oxford, and Mary Wedderburn. Her cousin, Gilbert Cannan was a British novelist and dramatist, and her sister, May, was a poet. She married H. J. Pullein-Thompson in 1918. Captain "Cappy" Harold J. Pullein-Thompson was badly injured during the war and Joanna became the main bread winner of the family, publishing her first novel in 1922 and then publishing a novel a year until she died in 1961. She encouraged all three of her daughters to write, with happy results, all three becoming writers. One of her granddaughters is also a published author.

Carola Oman was the daughter of noted British historian and Oxford professor, Sir Charles Oman. Carola became Lady Lenantan in 1922 after marrying Sir Gerald Lenanton. She published her first novel in 1924 and continued to write. Her biography of Nelson is still considered the standard against which Nelson biographies should be judged.

In checking Amazon for Joanna's first novel, The Misty Valley, I found a copy for $174.99, so it appears it may be a hard one to find at a reasonable price. I plan to check the library for any of her books. As for Carola, in checking for a copy of her first, The Royal Road, an historical novel about Mary, Queen of Scots, there were none currently available. I plan to check my library for any of her books as well.

It would be interesting to read books written by such close friends of Georgette. I will write more on Joanna and Carola in future entries.

Next Entry: Ronald and Georgette

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